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Plectranthus spp. (plek-TRAN-thus)
Swedish ivy, creeping Charlie, Swedish begonia, prostrate
coleus, spur flower.
Plectranthuses are perennial plants often used as groundcovers
and in indoor hanging baskets because of their trailing nature.
They feature light-green leaves that are oval- to heart-shaped
with scalloped edges. The stems are fleshy and can grow up to
three feet in length. The genus Plectranthus includes more than
350 species. Some varieties are all-green while others feature
distinctive markings such as white veins and purple undersides
or white margins. Some Plectranthuses will flower with tubular
With proper care, these plants can live indoors for months and
even up to three to five years.
Plectranthuses are available year-round.
AND CONSUMER CARE
LIGHT Average indoor light
is appropriate. Keep the plants out of direct sun.
WATER In spring through fall, keep the soil slightly moist at
all times. Water less frequently in winter.
TEMPERATURE Average indoor
temperatures are appropriate; avoid temperatures below
HUMIDITY Mist the leaves
FERTILIZER Feed every two
weeks with a balanced houseplant fertilizer in spring and
summer. Cut back to monthly feedings in fall and winter.
PRUNING Pinch back the stem
tips to encourage a bushy growth pattern.
can be propagated through stem cuttings, or the plants can be
REPOTTING Repot every couple
of years, or as needed, in spring or midsummer.
PESTS AND PROBLEMS Watch for
mealybugs, spider mites and scale insects. Keep plants
adequately hydrated, including the humidity level, and treat any
problems immediately, if they occur, by removal with a cotton
swab or insecticide as indicated. Isolating the plant and
pruning problem areas also may help contain an infestation.
LEAF PROBLEMS Dull, droopy
leaves may be caused by too much light, so choose a bright but
indirect source. Wilting that isn’t corrected with watering may
be an indication of root rot, which can be caused by
overwatering. Root stem cuttings from any healthy branches, and
discard the parent plant.
SPECIES TO LOOK FOR
P. argentatus (quick silver,
silver dollar) - This Australian species has short silver hairs
on its branches and leaves. The leaves are finely toothed ovals,
and the plants produce blue and white flowers.
P. australis - Its quilted
leaves are glossy green with scalloped edges. This plant
produces tubular lilac and white blooms.
P. ciliatus - The leaves of
this South African species are bronze-green on top and purple
beneath. Tubular mauve flowers appear in summer and fall.
P. coleoides ‘Marginatus’ -
A broad white edge distinguishes this variety’s ripple-toothed
leaves, which also feature a hairy surface.
P. oertendahlii (Swedish
ivy, Brazilian coleus, prostrate coleus) - A perennial from
South Africa, this plant has toothed leaves with prominent white
veins and purple undersides. Its flowers are pink to mauve.
FAMILY Plectranthuses are
members of the Lamiaceae, or Labiatae (mint), family. Common
relatives include Coleus, mint, Salvia, thyme, lamb’s ear (Stachys),
germander, rosemary, bee balm (Melissa) and Oswego-tea (Monarda).
IN A NAME The genus name Plectranthus comes from the
Greek roots “plectron,” meaning “spur,” and “anthos,” meaning
“flower.” This refers to the spur that often is found at the
base of the flower petals. The common name Swedish ivy refers to
the plants’ popularity in that Scandinavian country.
HOME SWEET HOME The plants
are native to Africa, Asia and Australia.
Some information provided by:
Botanica, by R.G. Turner Jr. and Ernie Wasson
The Chain of Life Network®,
The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual, by Barbara Pleasant
The House Plant Expert, by Dr. D.G. Hessayon
The Houseplant Encyclopedia, by Ingrid Jantra and Ursula Krüger
Photos courtesy of The John Henry Company
You may reach Foliage Plant of the Month writer Amy Bauer by
firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (800)
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